"I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali sparked a great discussion for the book groups at Laura Jeffrey Academy.
Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson and, of course, J.K. Rowling, are favorite authors of students at the Laura Jeffrey Academy, a fifth- through eighth-grade public school for girls in St. Paul.
What book has sparked a great discussion?
"I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" by Nujood Ali. Set in Yemen, it's the memoir of a girl in an arranged marriage to a man three times her age and her journey to get divorced. It speaks to the abuse she received from her husband and mother-in-law. The deeper meaning of this book is that women need to stand up for what they want. That despite where you come from, you should always have the right to have a voice and fight for yourself. It's about using your own resources to get out of a difficult situation. It led to a discussion about women's rights, the concept of honor, cultural differences and speaking out when circumstances are unjust.
"Am I Blue?," edited by Marion Dane Bauer, is a collection of fictional short stories about people who are gay or have gay parents or friends. It taught us more about GLBT people and their experiences and to be more accepting and supportive of GLBT students and young adults trying to find themselves.
"The Tequila Worm" by Viola Canales is about a Mexican-American student, Sofia, who wins a scholarship to an expensive, well-acclaimed boarding school and the difficulty of leaving her family after living in the barrio her whole life. It explores the topic of privilege. We learned a lot about Mexican-American culture and migrant farmworkers.
"Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan. Esperanza was born into a wealthy family in Mexico. Her father dies when she is 13, her family loses everything, and she is forced to move to the U.S. with her family to work. It led to discussions about immigration and racism, and how no matter what happens you must have hope and know what is right.
What books would you recommend?
"A Mango-Shaped Space" by Wendy Mass is about growing up and the hardships of death and mental disorders.
"Are You There God? Its Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume is about what it means to be a girl and what happens as you grow up.
"Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature" by Robin Brande is about the consequences of doing something you know you'll regret.
What advice do you have for making your book group work?
Listen to everyone in the group. It helps to understand a book by hearing and respecting other people's opinions. Sometimes we agree to disagree because we feel there's no right or wrong answer. Always stay up-to-date on your homework! It's difficult if just one person is behind, because it makes it harder to discuss the book. And, just have fun.